Biting and aggression toward people are the main reasons dogs are relinquished to shelters, says a study sponsored by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy. If Rascal snaps, don't add him to these statistics. Understand why he snaps and deal with it to stop his aggressive behavior.
Believe it or not, but Rascal's snapping is his way of telling you to back off. He's trying to communicate to you that something is making him uncomfortable and stressed. Aggression in dogs occurs in a sequence. Before snapping at you, Rascal might have already shown his discomfort by stiffening his body, then growling and showing his teeth. If you ignore the signs and don't properly resolve what's bothering him, a bite might soon follow.
Why Dogs Snap
Finding out what triggers Rascal's aggressive behavior is your first step toward correcting it. Take him to a veterinarian to exclude medical conditions or injuries that might hurt when you touch him and cause him to snap. Rascal's aggression might also be fear-related, or he might just be protective, possessive or territorial. A person, environment or a simple movement you make might set him off. Closely observe your pet companion to determine what leads up to his behavior.
If you think yelling, scolding or hitting is going to stop Rascal's snapping, think again. According to the Dumb Friends League, punishing your pet companion for snapping is ineffective and might worsen his aggressive behavior. A punishment might stop Rascal's snapping at the time, but the next time he's stressed and faces that trigger, he might resort to biting instead. After all, you taught him that snapping -- in his mind, giving you a warning -- is undesired behavior.
Once you determine what triggers Rascal's snapping, make him associate it with a pleasant consequence. For instance, if he snaps when you touch his paw, try touching his leg, then give him a piece of chicken. Practice this every day and, over time, lower your hand toward his paw while continuing to give the chicken treat after touching him. Eventually, he won't mind that you touch his paw because he'll associate it with getting a delicious treat. If for some reason your efforts aren't successful and the snapping continues, consult a veterinarian or behavior specialist.
- Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science: Behavioral Reasons for Relinquishment of Dogs and Cats to 12 Shelters
- Behavior Problems In Small Animals; Jon Bowen and Sarah Heath
- Dumb Friends League: Understanding Aggressive Behavior in Dogs
- The Whole Dog Journal Handbook of Dog and Puppy Care and Training; Nancy Kerns
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